Armed militia members have seized a federal wildlife refuge building in remote Oregon, vowing it is time to “kill or be killed,” and promising to stay at the site for years to come.
The militiamen claimed to have 150 members at the Malheur National Wildlife refuge in an isolated corner of southeastern Oregon. They broke into the facility late Saturday following a peaceful protest in support of Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven Hammond, 46, who were to report to prison Monday for burning government land, according to several reports.
"Bring your arms," militiamen said on Twitter, calling for all like-minded "patriots" to join them.
Journalists near the seige scene said the group appeared to number only 12 to 15 people.
The group includes Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Cliven Bundy, who led an armed standoff against the Bureau of Land Management in 2014. That stand-off garnered national attention while the agency tried to seize cattle belong to the Nevada rancher because he refused to pay grazing fees.
It ended with agents backing down, citing safety reasons, Reuters reported.
Ammon Bundy took to Facebook to outline the militia's reasoning. "We pose no threat to anybody," he said. "The people cannot survive without their land and resources."
Standing for the rights of men & women
BREAKING! SHARE! Standing for the rights of Men & Women. Calling all freedom loving people to come to Harney County Oregon, come to the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge. The people are finally getting some good use out of a federal facility.Posted by Bundy Ranch on Saturday, January 2, 2016
“We’re planning to stay her for years, absolutely,” Bundy told The Oregonian in a phone interview. “This is not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”
The militia is demanding the Hammonds’ release and the government to release the Malheur National Forest, the paper reported.
“The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area … will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever,” said Ryan Bundy, The Oregonian said.
“What we’re doing is not rebellious,” he said. “What we’re doing is in accordance with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.”
Federal and local law enforcement agencies are monitoring the occupation, but have not approached the militia members and have kept a low profile in the area, the paper reported.
The Hammonds, through their attorney, said they were not affiliated with the militia members or the takeover of the refuge building.
The federal center was unoccupied because of the holidays.